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PhD programmes

What is a PhD programme?

A PhD is usually a 3-year (180 ECTS) academic research degree. The components of the programme are:

  • Independent research under supervision
  • Courses for PhD students (approximately 30 ECTS credits)
  • Participation in research networks, including placements at other, primarily foreign, research institutions
  • Teaching or another form of knowledge dissemination, which is related to the PhD topic when possible.
  • The completion of a PhD thesis. The thesis can be a 200-page article or a collection of shorter research articles. The thesis is defended orally.

PhD programmes and courses are offered at Danish universities, which all offer excellent research, library and laboratory facilities for researchers and PhD students in addition to joint partnerships with industry.

PhD students are often encouraged to participate in research networks, including placements at overseas research institutions. A range of funding opportunities are available: Please visit the Researchers Mobility Portal for more information.

Who can apply?

As each institution in Denmark is responsible for its own admissions, requirements will vary. However, you will usually be required to have a recognised Masters degree in a relevant subject in order to be enrolled as a PhD student. Also, the applicants should also have good command of the English language.

For the students, who know that they want to pursue the researcher-path early on, the faculties have the option of starting a research degree directly after a bachelor’s. If this is the path you want to take, you can start a so-called 3+5 programme, which means starting your PhD and master's at the same time.

Some faculties have a 4+4 programme where you can start your PhD after a year of master’s studies. The Faculty of Science at the University of Copenhagen offers these two programmes, for example.

Each individual university lays down its own rules regarding this type of hybrid PhD. An example of this is Aarhus University’s 4- and 5-year PhD scholarships.

What should I include in my application?

In Denmark you must apply for PhD programmes in writing via advertised projects and scholarships. Usually, you either apply for an opportunity with a pre-defined research topic, or you propose your own research ideas.

You also have to include a transcript of your grades for your bachelor’s and master’s degrees with documentation of your grades, and a CV.

How can I finance my PhD?

For students from the EU/EEA/Switzerland higher education in Denmark is free

You may be eligible for free tuition as an international student, provided you meet one of the following conditions:

  • You hold a permanent residence permit
  • You hold a temporary residence permit that can be upgraded to a permanent one
  • You hold a residence permit as the accompanying child of a non-EU/EEA holding a residence permit based on employment

All other students pay tuition fees. The fee is 50,000 DKK per year, i.e. 150,000 DKK for three years and is not postponed during any absence from the three-year PhD programme such as maternity/paternity leave, other leaves of absence or long-term illness.

The first rate is paid at enrolment, the second rate is paid in the first quarter of the calendar year following enrolment and the third rate is paid in the first quarter of the second calendar year following enrolment.

The grant provider must guarantee for the payment of the tuition fee for all three years when applying for enrolment.

The tuition fee covers

  • PhD courses included in the Graduate School’s course catalogue
  • PhD courses at other Danish universities and to some extent courses from other providers in Denmark or abroad
  • Expenses regarding stays at other research environments in Denmark or abroad
  • Activities in the graduate programmes
  • Assessments and defence of your PhD thesis

Therefore, you have to be able to finance both your degree and your living costs. You can do this in several different ways:

Industrial PhD

If you aim to conduct a research project with commercial perspectives, you can apply for an industrial PhD. You will be employed by a private sector company and at the same time enrolled as a PhD student at the Graduate School at a university.

As an industrial PhD student you will carry out research where results are applied in an enterprise setting. The cooperation between university and industry gives you access to new knowledge and innovation provided by the private sector company.

Application process for the industrial PhD

  • Start by finding a private sector company and a university supervisor for your PhD project.
  • The private sector company must send an application to Innovation Fund Denmark to apply for the industrial PhD grant on your behalf.
  • If successful, you can apply for enrolment at the Graduate School.

Visit the website of Innovation Fund Denmark to learn about application deadlines, requirements and how to proceed with your application.

How much can you expect to be paid as a PhD student?

If you are funded by a faculty  or a department, your salary is regulated by the Agreement between the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations and the Ministry of Finance (in Danish) (AC agreement). The average monthly salary for a PhD fellow at the University of Copenhagen is 32,567 DKK. After earning their doctorate, researchers go on to a postdoc which, in Denmark, can last up to four years at the same university.

PhD students employed at a hospital:

If you are employed at a hospital your salary follows the collective agreements in place at the Danish regions. In this agreement your employment depends on the degree you hold. Medical doctors are employed according to the collective agreement of the Danish Medical Association while other candidates are employed following the AC agreement. Contact your employer for more information.

Industrial PhD students employed by a private sector company

If you are employed as an industrial PhD student, your salary follows the collective agreement in place at your company. Contact your employer for more information.

Who gets accepted?

The head of the relevant PhD school decides which applicants will be accepted and enrolled into the programme – but of course it is not entirely at his/her own discretion. The applicants are selected based on a recommendation from the academic staff members on the faculty’s PhD committee.

When can I apply?

Job banks at universities are full of postings. You can also search for a PhD course here:

Video: Dario is doing his PhD in Sustainable Energy at The Technical University of Denmark, which is is also offered as a MSc programme. Watch more videos

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